Oak Leaf minors look to maintain recent run of success
Electric Ireland All-Ireland MFC semi-final: Derry v Galway (today, Parnell Park, 1pm, live on TG4)
THE last time Derry faced Galway at minor level, it was the 2007 All-Ireland final and Damien Reddington's late goal left the Oak Leafers marooned.
Derry won a paltry two of their next nine Championship games at the grade over next seven seasons until the 2015 team, spearheaded by Conor Glass and Shane McGuigan, ended a 13-year silverware famine.
Martin Boyle's side take the field this afternoon in the latest chapter that has seen Derry at the cutting edge of underage football in Ulster.
Of the 35 games in the last eight seasons under Boyle, Paddy Campbell and Damian McErlain, 26 have ended in victory.
The most recent outing saw them overcome Munster champions Cork in a more convincing manner than the 0-12 to 0-6 scoreline suggests.
Despite conceding four goals in a gut-wrenching Ulster final defeat to Tyrone, Derry backed themselves by going man to man at the in defence, with a greater intensity at midfield. Odhran Crozier, Dara McPeake and Ruairi Forbes took turns to cover behind midfield when Cork were on the ball.
It suffocated Cork, but Derry face a different proposition in a Galway team more assured on the ball with a direct running game through the centre.
Midfielders Jack Lonergan and Shay McGlinchey – a native of Bellaghy – ran through a cynical Dublin defence to carve open two goal chances. Even when Fionn O'Connor fired over their opening score, a goal was there for the taking.
Of Galway's 10 points, six came when they had an extra man. The Dubs were wind-assisted and leading 0-4 to 0-2 when Nathan Fitzgerald was black-carded Galway hit three on the bounce to go in ahead at the interval, in front of the watching Derry management team in Tullamore.
The sides where level when Dublin's Luke O'Boyle picked up a second booking early in the second half and Galway pushed on for victory.
Dublin were the fancied horse coming into the game and clocked up four points with the wind at their back, with all their attacks played into the right corner of their attack where Galway's Vinny Gill and Ryan Flaherty were caught on the turn.
Gill and Tomás Farthing in the other corner like to get forward, with Galway dropping back in numbers to cover.
When not running the ball, the varied side of Galway's play goes the pivotal Éanna Monaghan who has clocked up 3-23 (0-13 frees) so far this season. His balance, vision and a sweet left boot take others into the play from the centre-forward berth.
Galway were hammered by Mayo in the Connacht group stages before falling to them again in the final and had the resolved to turn Dublin over.
Both teams today have scored an average of 1-13 per game (Galway have played two games more) with Derry's average concession of 1-8 three points better than the men from the west.
It points to a game resting on a knife-edge.
Derry's attack lacks the marquee forward many teams rely on, with their scores from play balanced well across their team in absence of injured skipper Ryan McNicholl. Their biggest strength is their unity. Even in their first round game against Armagh, Derry passed the ball around like a team beyond their years.
Minor football can be unpredictable and Derry need to take lessons from Tyrone, who won all their games until Kerry played a watertight blanket to decommission their attacking aces.
If Boyle and his management can bottle the desire they brought to Portlaoise it will take a another impressive display from an inconsistent Galway to stop them.
Shay McGlinchey v Ruairi Forbes
IF Derry decide to fight fire with fire in the midfield sector, it could see Ruairi Forbes taking on the towering Shay McGlinchey.
Both players like to get forward and it's McGlinchey who helped punch holes in the Dublin defence when Galway needed someone to take the game to them.
Against Cork, Forbes ticked plenty of boxes. Covering back when needed and it was his run and point early in the second half that sounded the death knell on the Rebels' hopes.
OUTSIDE of the midfield battle, the Derry management's collective focus will be locked on the stationing of Éanna Monaghan and Colm Costello as referee Sean Laverty throws in the ball.
If Monaghan plays at centre forward, like he did against Dublin, James Murray could be handed the job if picking him up, with Danny McDermott going on Colm Costello.
Closer to goal, McEldowney is the likely marker for Monaghan, but no matter what happens Derry will have to keep the centre of their defence compact to the threat of runners.
Both goalkeepers have variation in their kicking, so it will be fine margins in the kick-out contest.
Galway wing back Mark Mannion was man of the match against Dublin, but the area Derry can dictate the game is their half forward line. Johnny McGuckian, Odhran Murphy and Cahir Higgins hold the key. Spiers and McGuckian are full of running, with Murphy a scoring option to occupy Trayers.
Derry: B O'Connor; E Scullion, F McEldowney; D McDermott; O Crozier, J Murray, S Birt; R Forbes, D McPeake; J McGuckian, O Murphy, C Spiers; C Higgins; E Higgins, C Chambers
Galway: K Gilmore, T Farthing, R Flaherty; V Gill; M Mannion, C Trayers, R Coen; S McGlinchey, J Lonergan; S Dunne, É Monaghan, O Morgan; C Costello; F O'Connor, S Curley
Referee: S Laverty (Antrim)